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Posted on: October 21, 2022

Governor Hochul and Buffalo Mayor Brown Announce Establishment of May 14th Memorial Commission

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Governor Kathy Hochul and Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown announced the establishment of the May 14th Memorial Commission in response to the mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue earlier this year. The Commission will develop and advise on the execution of a plan to site and build a physical memorial in East Buffalo to memorialize the life and legacy of the ten Black residents of Buffalo who died in the white supremacist terror attack earlier this year.  

“Five months ago, 10 Black Buffalonians were senselessly slaughtered solely because of the color of their skin, and through the May 14th Memorial Commission, we are ensuring that their lives and legacies are honored,” Governor Hochul said. “The May 14th Memorial Commission will create a lasting reminder of the losses we experienced that awful day. While we combat racism in all forms and work towards a future where hatred and bigotry are a thing of the past, the Commission, led by Reverend Mark Blue and supported by partners like Mayor Brown, will have a leading role in uplifting the East Buffalo community.”    

Buffalo Mayor Brown said, “Our community was deeply affected by the events of May 14, 2022, and the May 14th Memorial Commission will bring transformative ideas to the forefront that will aid in the healing and create a symbol of remembrance.  I look forward to working with the Governor and the May 14th Memorial Commission to build a memorial for the ten innocent members of our community who were killed in this racially motivated mass shooting. I thank Governor Hochul for prioritizing the establishment of this commission which will be crucial in helping our city heal from this tragedy.”  

The May 14th Memorial Commission will eventually consist of 11 members, six of which were announced today, including the chair. Governor Hochul and Mayor Brown announced today that Buffalo National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP) President Reverend Mark E. Blue was appointed to serve as Chair of the Commission. The following community members have been appointed today to serve on the Commission: 

  • Diane Colgan, Senior Vice President Tops Friendly Markets   
  • Jonathan Dandes, Buffalo Niagara Partnership   
  • Dr. Norm Lewin, Buffalo Arts Commission   
  • Larry Stitts, Jefferson Ave Business owner   
  • Garnell Whitfield, Former Buffalo City Fire Commissioner    

The Governor and Mayor also announced the launch of a thoughtful and intentional selection process will follow to seat the remaining commission members, who will consist of combination of East Buffalo community members, as well as leaders in civic and cultural life, and be representative of the full diversity of Buffalo’s Black communities. An announcement of the Commission’s full membership will be made soon.  

With respect to its charge, the Commission will focus on the following topics:   

  • Siting and Acquiring Land.  
  • Community and Family Engagement Plans.  
  • Architect Selection and Design Concepts.  
  • Fundraising.  
  • Memorial Maintenance and Area Beautification.  

New York State and the City of Buffalo also announced their intention to make specific financial commitments to the project in the future, with the amount to be determined based on scope and scale of project recommended Commission and in concert with State legislative partners. The Commission will also explore securing additional private contributions. 

The establishment of the May 14th Memorial Commission is another step in the State’s long-term commitment to the East Buffalo community. Earlier this year, Governor Hochul announced $50 million of targeted investments as part of the State’s ongoing efforts to address the immediate needs in wake of the white supremacist terror attack at Tops Friendly Markets. New York State will continue to coordinate with city, county, philanthropic and business partners, and grassroots leaders to address long-term needs in the community.  

The victims of the May 14th mass shooting include Pearl Young, Ruth Whitfield, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Aaron Salter Jr., Geraldine Talley, Katherine Massey, Roberta A. Drury, Heyward Patterson, and Celestine Chaney.   

Buffalo NAACP President and Chair of the May 14th Commission Reverend Mark E. Blue is an East Buffalo native that has made the fight for racial equity and justice his lifelong priority. A pastor at Second Baptist Church since 2001, Blue has previously served as president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Buffalo and Vicinity for the past decade, where he is dedicated to working with pastors and ministers across Western New York. Six years ago, he became President of the Buffalo Branch NAACP, subscribing as a Gold Life member.  He is currently in his second term as the branch president, where he continues to help address racial disparities and inequities in the Buffalo community. In this capacity, Pastor Blue also serves on the Erie County Industrial Development Board and sits on the President Advisory Committee of Buffalo State College. 

State Senator Tim Kennedy said, “Nothing can bring back the loved ones who were stolen from us on May 14th, but as a community, we can come together to commemorate the meaningful and impactful lives that they led. I know that with the leadership and wisdom of Reverend Blue, the May 14th Memorial Commission will prepare a plan that will unite Buffalonians and honor those who were lost with a message of love and compassion. Thank you to Governor Hochul and Mayor Brown for recognizing this memorial's importance and appointing a chairperson of such stature.” 

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “We will never forget the pain, fear, and horror our community felt on May 14th. We will also never forget how Western New York banded together to honor the victims and serve Buffalo's East Side in the aftermath of the racially motivated mass murder. I applaud Governor Hochul and Mayor Brown for establishing the May 14th Memorial Fund. I hope this memorial will commemorate those we lost and celebrate the resilient nature of our historic community.”  

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, “A permanent memorial to honor the lives that were taken from us on May 14th will make a lasting, fitting tribute to these men and women and reaffirm that they will always be in our hearts and in our memories. I am confident that the May 14th Memorial Commission will be in good hands with Rev. Mark Blue as Chair, continuing the healing process for our community.” 

Erie County Legislature Chair April Baskin said, “In the wake of the shocking, senseless massacre of our friends and neighbors, we have all tried to come to terms with the enormity of the loss our community suffered. This memorial has the potential to create a space to center our grief and to allow us to begin to heal. I thank Governor Hochul and Mayor Brown for organizing this Commission and having the foresight to appoint the Rev. Mark Blue as its Chair.” 

Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson said, “I want to thank Governor Hochul for establishing the May 14th Memorial Commission. The brutal attack that our community suffered on that day has left a scar in our hearts and memories. I cannot think of a better man than Reverend Blue to lead us through the work of crafting a memorial that will honor those who were taken from us.” 

Buffalo Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen, “The tragic events of May 14th radically impacted and changed the lives of 10 families who lost their family members, 3 families that survived the attack, and countless others who are still recovering mentally from the events on that day. This Memorial Commission has the opportunity to continuing the healing process with a proper memorial, that will assist us in remembering those who lost their lives. Thank you to Governor Hochul, Mayor Byron Brown, and Rev. Mark Blue for starting the work on this memorial.”  

Buffalo Common Councilmember Ulysees O. Wingo, Sr. said, “I believe the involvement of the President of the NAACP Buffalo Branch will provide the needed historic collaborative advocacy that bolsters the Black voice in America.  Appointing President Mark Blue to the May 14th Memorial Commission sends a clear and resounding message that Black voices cannot and will not be silenced. I personally thank Gov. Hochul for making this appointment and for making the healing of our community priority.” 

Buffalo NAACP President and Chair of the May 14th Commission Reverend Mark E. Blue said, “I am deeply honored to be appointed by Governor Hochul and Mayor Brown to serve as chair of the May 14th Memorial Commission. We are committed to erecting a permanent memorial that will honor the lives and memory of the innocent victims of this horrific attack. I look forward to working with all community stakeholders to ensure that this memorial is inclusive and is a lasting tribute that helps our community heal.” 

Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said, “It is fitting that we immediately begin the process of permanently memorializing the victims of this hateful, racist attack. It is my prayer that as we begin this journey, it will provide the opportunity for our community to come together in love in a united effort that will honor all of those who have suffered under the weight of white supremacy. At a time when our legacy and history continue to be re-written and, in many cases, unwritten, it is even more important that we write and preserve our own. We are thankful to Gov. Hochul and Mayor Brown for their leadership and support and look forward to the development of a transformational project that will honorably forever remember the lives of our loved ones and usher in a new era of hope and prosperity for the people that are the East Side of Buffalo.” 

 

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